The media monitoring company that issues “trust scores” to news outlets says it still doesn’t have enough information to conclude that terrorists are to blame for the deadly blast at a Gaza hospital — although all available evidence has led U.S. intelligence to declare with “high confidence” that this is the case.
In a Thursday email to The Daily Wire, a NewsGuard senior analyst called into question commentary by Daily Wire Editor Emeritus Ben Shapiro pinning the blame on Palestinian terrorists.
“There have been enough conflicting accounts that, in NewsGuard’s view, we still don’t know enough to pin the blame definitively on [Palestinian Islamic Jihad],” wrote Valerie Pavilonis of NewsGuard, which has received nearly a million dollars from the federal government for its services.
At the time of her email, U.S. intelligence officials had already gone public with their assessment that the hospital blast was the result of a Palestinian rocket. Based on analysis of four different video feeds as well as the effect of the blast, it was determined with “high confidence” that the rocket came from inside Gaza and was fired by Palestinian militants.
A video analysis published by the Washington Post on Thursday confirmed that “fighters in Gaza launched a barrage of rockets toward Israel and in the direction of al-Ahli Hospital 44 seconds before” the explosion.
These findings are consistent with Shapiro’s statements made on the October 18 episode of “The Ben Shapiro Show” that NewsGuard is taking issue with. The only evidence to the contrary has been supplied from the Palestinian militant groups themselves, which stated that more than 500 people were killed from an Israeli air strike — claims that have been proven to be false.
“Naturally, when a hospital allegedly blew up in the Gaza Strip yesterday afternoon, and Hamas immediately claimed that the explosion was an Israeli airstrike and that 500 people had been killed, the media used their heads,” Shapiro said. “They decided to wait for all the information to emerge because, you know, Hamas are liars. Nah, just kidding. They went with Hamas’ report because this is what they do. As it turned out, Hamas was, as usual, lying, lying from beginning to end. A failed Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket hit the hospital.”
U.S. intelligence officials say that “catastrophic motor failure” is likely to blame for the misfire of the terrorist rocket that hit the hospital grounds.
“There was a catastrophic motor failure that likely occurred, which separated the motor and the warhead,” an official told media outlets. “The warhead landed in the hospital compound and that was the second explosion and a much bigger one.”
That assessment based on video footage from the night of the blast is confirmed by scenes from the aftermath, according to the official, who said there would have been “large craters and broader blast effects” if the explosion was caused by Israeli munitions. In reality, there was only “light structural damage,” consistent with what would have been caused by a misfired terrorist projectile.
Media outlets that blamed Israel based on claims from Gaza’s Ministry of Health, which is controlled by Hamas, were forced to backtrack their initial claims about the blast. The New York Times admits it relied “too heavily” on unverified information from terrorists in its reporting.
NewsGuard, a for-profit organization, says its mission is to provide “transparent tools to counter misinformation for readers.” It says it hires “trained journalists” to “rate and review” outlets based on apolitical assessments of facts. It gives news outlets each a “trust score” ranging from 0-100.
It is unclear whether NewsGuard will negatively rate outlets that blamed Israel for the explosion. Pavilonis, the NewsGuard analyst, did not respond to a request for comment on its reluctance to pin blame for the attack on Palestinian terrorists.
Asked about NewsGuard’s attempt to fact-check his coverage of the hospital explosion, Shapiro called the inquiry a “mockery.”
“Leave it to a perverse mockery of fact checking to mimic Hamas’ propaganda about lack of clarity surrounding the Palestinian Islamic Jihad hospital attack, despite literally all evidence to the contrary,” Shapiro told The Daily Wire. “With fact-checking like this, who needs disinformation?”
Critics have called into question just how trustworthy NewsGuard’s assessments are. Independent journalist Michael Shellenberger, who interviewed the company’s co-CEOs, points out that the media monitor improperly downgraded outlets that reported on the possibility that COVID-19 escaped from a Chinese lab, a theory that is now widely believed to be the most plausible explanation for its origin.
A Washington, D.C., news outlet sued NewsGuard this week, charging that the media monitor is “engaged in a pattern and practice of labeling, stigmatizing and defaming American media organizations that oppose or dissent from American foreign and defense policy,” pointing to a $750,000 payment from the U.S. Department of Defense as a conflict of interest.
After publication of this article, NewsGuard’s General Manager Matt Skibinski said the company has not downgraded any outlet for stating that terrorists caused the explosion.
“NewsGuard is not treating reports or statements asserting that an IPJ rocket caused the hospital explosion as examples of false, misleading, or irresponsibly reported statements that would contribute to a site failing our criteria; no publisher’s score has been downgraded as a result of such claims,” Skibinski said in an email. “For news outlets that reported with certainty that Israel was behind the explosion based on initial reports, we are looking carefully at what each outlet reported and when, how much certainty they conveyed, and whether any initial inaccurate claims were quickly and prominently corrected as new facts about the incident came to light.”